Unpicking language in literature: why the blue curtains do matter

As a teacher, the thing I find myself saying over and over again to students is, “develop your language analysis”. Every year, every student, almost every piece. It’s not that they’re bad at it – far from it, mostly! But it’s always the thing that makes their explanations more precise and, in the exams they do, will get them better marks. The thing is, we’re trying to make the implicit become explicit. The feeling that you get when you read gets unpicked, understood, and stitched back together again. I usually get shown this meme at some point in the year too: …

Women through the ages – a new scheme of work

Like many teachers I’m currently in the middle of planning for next year, with a bit more space to rethink the curriculum, and a comment from one of my Year 13 students has stayed with me. I think I’d written some feedback about avoiding generalisation regarding the representation of women  not treating Renaissance and Victorian women the same in her context-heavy essay – and she said that she didn’t really know the difference. She knew there was one, that women’ rights couldn’t have been completely stagnant until the early twentieth century, but didn’t have a strong grasp of what the …

Planning comparison essays for GCSE and A Level

One of the most difficult skills to do well is, I think, comparison, and it’s often what distinguishes really good writers – the ability to hold both texts together and weigh them against one another. This post explores some ways to plan a comparative answer – before you’re in the exam hall! I actually think the A-Level style of questions works better to prompt good, focused comparison – so let’s compare the two: GCSE: Explore the way Browning presents painful relationships in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and one other poem from the Relationships cluster. A-Level: Dystopian writing often portrays a bleak future …

How do I revise for English? Where to start, and a revision schedule.

As a teacher, I’m asked this almost constantly in the run-up to exams. There is a perception that English is a “skills subject” and therefore much more difficult to revise for compared to, say Biology or History. Although there’s a great deal of skill involved, there is a lot of knowledge needed for English exams; the “skill section” is in putting it all into practice.  I’m not sure if the question is a misunderstanding of this, or a sense of being overwhelmed with where to begin. I think it’s sometimes the latter, and so in this post I’ll look at a …